It’s now official: Nick Foles is the starting quarterback for the Eagles in Thursday night’s NFL opener against Atlanta at Lincoln Financial Field. Doug Pederson made the announcement at the NovaCare Complex on Monday morning as he walked up to the podium in the auditorium and ended months of questions and speculation. In the end, it turned out to be a decision that everyone saw coming.
“Nick Foles is the starter and we have complete confidence, obviously, in what he can do,” Pederson told me just prior to making the announcement. “We’re ready to go with Nick.”
Carson Wentz, The Franchise, has not yet been cleared for contact by the Eagles’ medical team. And until he is cleared, until he is deemed 100 percent ready to play competitive, tackle football, Wentz will not play. The Eagles, Pederson has made clear, are not going to jeopardize what could be a Hall of Fame-level career over the next 10 to 15 years by playing Wentz before the medical staff says he’s ready to go.
So it’s Nick Foles in the saddle again.
Foles, the Super Bowl LII Most Valuable Player who took over the offense when Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury on December 10 in the win over the Los Angeles Rams, has been taking the first-team reps in practice as the Eagles prepare for a fast and aggressive Atlanta defense that, while it doesn’t do a whole lot of gadget-type stuff from a scheme standpoint, flies to the football and creates pressure up front with excellent edge pass rushers, strength at the tackle positions, and speedy, sideline-to-sideline playmaking linebackers.
“Nick Foles functions better when his offensive line functions better. When we give Nick Foles time to feel comfortable, sit back there, and make throws, he plays better. Quite frankly I don’t think, as an offensive line, we’ve done a great job of making him feel comfortable in the preseason games,” center Jason Kelce said. “I think that as long as we’re able to do that this week, as long as we’re able to make him feel confident and be able to go through his progressions and go through his reads, Nick has proven that he can go back there and be a good quarterback.”
With only a few days to go before the opener, the Eagles can fully focus on Atlanta and not be concerned with more who-is-the-quarterback questions. It’s Foles, and that’s just fine with the Eagles. Having a quality backup quarterback proved to be invaluable for the Eagles in 2017 as Foles stepped in and helped clinch the win in Los Angeles to secure the NFC East title for the Eagles. The next week at MetLife Stadium, Foles threw four touchdown passes in a win over the New York Giants.
The sailing wasn’t quite as smooth the following week, on Christmas Night at Lincoln Financial Field, as the offense and Foles struggled in a narrow win over Oakland to clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs, and then Foles failed to get anything going in a brief stint in the regular-season finale against Dallas.
Using the bye week to tweak the offensive approach, the Eagles and Foles toughed out a 15-10 win over Atlanta in the NFC Divisional Round and then lit up Minnesota’s No. 1-ranked defense in the NFC Championship Game. Two weeks later, Foles won MVP honors by throwing three touchdown passes and catching another on the Philly Special play just before halftime against New England.
Nate Sudfeld will be the No. 2 quarterback on Thursday night and Wentz will be inactive. There is no timetable on when Wentz will be cleared, so Foles is the starter going forward for the Eagles. The sole focus is on Thursday night and having the offense, which failed to get untracked in the preseason, up and running efficiently against Atlanta.
Having left tackle Jason Peters and running back Darren Sproles in the lineup will help as both players return from injuries suffered in the 2017 regular season.
“It comes down to execution,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “We have the players and we have a great coaching staff. We just have to be disciplined and focused and do our jobs.”
The long-discussed and much-debated Eagles quarterback story now has its answer: It’s Nick Foles, as became fairly clear every time Pederson told the media that Wentz had not yet been cleared for full contact.